Robin: Today I am interviewing author Karen Katchur. Welcome, Karen. Nice to have you with me.
Karen: Hi Robin! Thanks for having me!
Robin: Your debut novel, The Secrets of Lake Road, is due out on August 4th from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. Congratulations! I can’t wait to read it. How did it feel when you got the call from your agent that it had sold?
Karen: I was super happy, of course! I waited a long time for that phone call, and all the hard work I’d put in had finally paid off.
Robin: Would you mind sharing with me the process by which you found an agent? And a bit of the process from pitch to representation to publication?
Karen: It took me eight years to sign with an agent. There were many, many rejections along the way, but I kept writing and working on craft. Eventually, I started getting rejections with constructive feedback on my fourth novel. The best thing I did was to listen to that feedback. I worked on revisions for six months, and the day I was ready to query again I happened to get a copy of Writer’s Digest Magazine in the mail. Carly Watters was the featured agent in the Agent Spotlight. She had been on my radar for some time, so I queried her right away. From there, it happened quickly. She requested a partial and then the full manuscript. We talked on the phone, and I signed with her a few days later.
While Carly was busy pitching my novel, I was busy writing my next one. Somewhere in the process and after several rounds of revisions, I fell out of love with it. I couldn’t work on it anymore. We talked about it, and agreed it was time I put the second novel aside. Meanwhile, the first novel wasn’t selling (although we’re still hopeful). Again, we talked and decided to put the first novel aside, too. I didn’t let it deter me. I started writing my third novel, which happened to be, THE SECRETS OF LAKE ROAD. When it was completed, Carly pitched SECRETS. We had an offer within a week or two.
So it took me eight years to sign with an agent, and another two years to get an offer from a publishing house, a total of ten years to publication.
Robin: Tell me about the story. And by the way, I LOVE the cover.
Karen: Thank you! I love the cover too, although I had nothing to do it. It was all the design team at Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. They did a fantastic job.
The story is a suspenseful women’s fiction about the destructive power of secrets. Below is the summary found in the inside jacket copy.
Jo has been hiding the truth about her role in her high school boyfriend’s drowning for sixteen years. Every summer, she drops her children off with her mother at the lakeside community where she spent summers growing up, but cannot bear to stay herself; everything about the lake reminds her of the guilt she feels. For her daughter Caroline, however, the lake is a precious world apart; its familiarity and sameness comforts her every year despite the changes in her life outside its bounds. At twelve years old and caught between childhood and adolescence, she longs to win her mother’s love and doesn’t understand why Jo keeps running away. Then seven-year-old Sara Starr goes missing from the community beach. Rescue workers fail to uncover any sign of her—but instead dredge up the bones Jo hoped would never be discovered, shattering the quiet lakeside community’s tranquility. Caroline was one of the last people to see Sara alive on the beach, and feels responsible for her disappearance. She takes it upon herself to figure out what happened to the little girl. As Caroline searches for Sara, she uncovers the secrets her mother has been hiding, unraveling the very foundation of everything she knows about herself and her family in this riveting novel that is impossible to put down and hard to forget.
Robin: You like to set your tales in the Pocono area. What is the reason for that? How and why does the area inspire you?
Karen: I grew up in the Poconos area with its lakes and rivers, streams and trails, and winding mountain roads. It’s got this great mix of beauty and danger, and it really makes for the perfect setting for the kinds of stories I want to tell, part women’s fiction and part mystery/suspense.
Robin: Are you working on your next book? What type of routine do you set yourself for writing?
Karen: I am busy writing the next book. When I’m writing the first draft, I have a 1000 word count a day, Monday through Friday, so 5000 words a week. I take the weekends off from writing to spend time with my family and to let things percolate. I find I need time away to think about the story and characters, or as I refer to it, recovery time. I get my best ideas away from the computer. I keep a notebook handy for each novel, so I can jot down the things I think of while I’m not at my computer.
Once the first draft is written, I take as long as I need to work on revisions, which is usually several more months where I do a lot of re-writing.
Robin: I know we’ve talked about other storylines you’ve come up with, and they’re always quite beyond the ordinary. Where do you get your ideas?
Karen: I tend to build my fiction around an event. The event can be of a personal nature or it can be from something I’ve read or heard about in the news or wherever. For SECRETS, it just happened to be from a personal experience. When I was nine or ten years old, a young teenage boy had drowned. I’d watched them drag the lake for several days until they’d finally pulled his body onto the beach. It was the first dead body I ever saw, and the tragedy of that day had stayed with me. The fear and helplessness I’d felt during that time was what I attempted to capture in Caroline’s character.
Robin: What do you plan or hope to write in the future?
Karen: I love writing what I do which has been called suspenseful women’s fiction, so I hope to keep on doing just that.
Robin: You have several book signings scheduled for the near future. Where and when?
Karen: Yes! Thank you for asking.
Book Launch on August 4th at 6 pm at Moravian Book Shop, Bethlehem, PA
August 6th at 7pm at Open Books Bookstore Elkins Park, PA
August 13th at 6pm at Let’s Play Books! Emmaus, PA.
Robin: I will definitely see you there. I want you to sign my copy of The Secrets of Lake Road! Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you. Perhaps when you have a publication date for your next book we can get back together to talk about that one, too.
Karen: Of course! Thank you so much for having me, Robin! It was fun!